Tim Blair


New Criterion



Thursday, September 09, 2004
IT'S JUST AS WELL that clever old bureaucrat Biffer Balding has had Rehame media monitors on the job to prove Auntie's election coverage is balanced, as it was bound to do, otherwise we might notice how the perfectly-balanced stories are spinning internally.

Here is the news, according to Radio National's PM programme:
LOUISE YAXLEY: On a muddy path in Melbourne's south-eastern suburbs, the Prime Minister, the Treasurer, and all the Liberal candidates for the half dozen or so seats in the area looked through the drizzle at the site of the Scoresby freeway. That's a road caught up in a long-running row about whether the State Government can charge tolls when it promised it wouldn't.
And here is spin that tops and tails the news:
MARK COLVIN: The Federal Government is still hinting that it will announce some extra tax breaks during this election campaign. But before it reveals any extra goodies it has up its sleeve, it wants to do as much damage to the Labor plan as it can.

The Liberal leader, John Howard, and his Deputy, Peter Costello, lined up together today in Melbourne's south-eastern suburbs and threw all they could at Labor's plan.

With the political spotlight on Labor's tax cuts, Mr Costello was keen for anything that would link Labor to charging new or higher taxes.

The Scoresby freeway is a local issue on the margins of the campaign.

Get the message? Labor's offering is doing well, Coalition desperate, toll road a mere pretext. I don't know about you clods out there, but I think this old listener could make sense of Peter Costello without Auntie's spin:
PETER COSTELLO: If they vote Labor on October the 9th, they will be taxed with a toll every single day of their lives, every day on their way to work, every day on their way home from work, every day on their way to their entertainment, to their football matches. A vote for Mark Latham in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne is a vote to be taxed every day to use your roads.

Prime Minister Howard also gets the benefit of Auntie's hyperactive interpretations.

Here again is the news:
JOHN HOWARD: To start with, everybody under $52,000 does not get $8 a week. Many people only get $3.50 a week. Anybody earning under $21,500 only gets $3.50 a week.
... and the spin:
Labor's tax plan is dominating today so Mr Howard and Mr Costello have been forced to spend all day trying to find weaknesses in it.

The Prime Minister doesn't want it sold as $8 a week extra for the people who missed out in the Government's package.
You can see the Government is on the back foot again, and not to be believed.

And on it goes:
But Mr Costello hasn't backed down. ... The debate about the tables creates a distraction from Labor selling the benefits of its tax cuts, so the Prime Minister is keen to keep it going. ...
How did we ever understand the political world when we only had journalists reporting it to us?